Covid-19 In the Amazon: Expanding Collaboration With Armed Forces To Serve Indigenous Peoples

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Logistical proposals to serve indigenous peoples.

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon are an epidemiologically differentiated and extremely vulnerable population. Epidemics of diseases caused by contact with outsiders are part of his living memory. Flu is one of the diseases that has decimated them over five centuries and against which they have very little immune resistance.  

The COVID-19 pandemic reaches them when they were already being besieged by malaria, hepatitis b, c and Delta, dengue and were fighting against previously unknown health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and generalized anemia. These latter ills are a direct consequence of the dietary changes brought about by the monetization of its economy, the destruction of forest food sources and the introduction of city habits. In many places in the jungle, even the furthest, there is nothing to eat. There are no animals, no fish, and many people have stopped making farms because they worked in paid activities. Today’s Amazon diet has little of Amazon: rice, noodles, canned tuna, oil, vegetables and sodas. Sadly, this monetization of Amazonian life further heightens their vulnerability to the pandemic.

With the arrival of news about the advance of COVID-19, communities in different parts of the upper and lower jungle have reacted quickly and taken the initiative to close their borders, blocking roads and navigation on rivers. Isolation is an indigenous strategy for survival in the face of epidemics; They know how to do it, but in order to carry out their own quarantine they need help from the Government, since now they depend on food and medicine from the cities.

Until this Wednesday, April 8, the initiatives taken by the communities and the pronouncements of the national, regional and local indigenous organizations had not received official support from the Peruvian Government. In several places, the community members have joined forces with the Armed Forces and the Police to close their territories, but the lack of official pronouncements announcing a clear contingency plan for indigenous communities has generated great frustration and helplessness.

During the presidential message on Wednesday, President Martín Vizcarra and the Minister of Culture, Sonia Guillén, emphasized the logistical needs to reach populations in the most remote places in the country and pointed out that, in the case of the Amazon, They will use the Itinerant Social Action Platforms (PIAS) in coordination with the Ministry of Social Inclusion and the Peruvian Navy to bring food, medicine and health services to the communities.

The proposal to use PIAS is adequate, but largely insufficient. There are few boats and these can only sail in certain rivers and at certain times of the year, depending on the river floods. What is needed? It is required to expand collaboration with the Armed Forces, not only with the Peruvian Navy, but also the Army and the FAAP. These are the State organs with a real presence and execution capacity in the Amazon region. Without the broader involvement of the Armed Forces, a large part of the Amazon population will remain excluded from state support.

Therefore, it is necessary to allocate a budget so that the Armed Forces, using their logistics on land, rivers and air, carry as soon as possible the food and medicines that the communities urgently require to remain in quarantine and for the plan to be executed. contingency for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Armed Forces have the best logistical capacity and means of transportation to operationalize the plan for health care and evacuation of those infected in the communities. The contingency plan could include both indigenous communities and hamlets and population centers with riverside and mestizo populations that also require food and face-to-face health care. It seems incredible, but at this critical moment most of the care centers and health posts in the communities are closed. There are no nurses, technicians, or medicines to treat common illnesses, such as diarrhea, which is a leading cause of infant mortality. Communities have been left to their own devices.

Extensive collaboration with the Armed Forces on land, in rivers, and in the air is also crucial to control the traffic of merchants who continue to move on hidden roads and navigate rivers, carrying goods. These constitute imminent vectors of contagion and must be effectively paralyzed. The disorder in the Amazon cities in recent weeks has shown that regional governments and Amazonian municipalities may not have the capacity to execute or the presence that is required. If they do not manage to control the river traffic around the ports of the Amazonian cities, will they be able to execute a contingency plan along thousands of kilometers of rivers?

Covid-19 In the Amazon: Expanding Collaboration With Armed Forces To Serve Indigenous Peoples

In many places in the upper and lower jungle, agents of the illicit economy transit carrying illegal chemical inputs and illicit loads of wood, gold and cocaine. The presence of these operators of the illicit economy is highly dangerous for the existence of the indigenous inhabitants, as well as the riverside and mestizo in the region. It is necessary that the government of Peru, the Armed Forces and the Police give all their support to the self-defense mechanisms of the communities to continue blocking the roads and rivers at key points.

To complement the execution capacity and the real presence of the State in the Amazon, the support of the transportation infrastructure of the hydrocarbon companies that operate will also be crucial. Government coordination with hydrocarbon companies is urgent. The helicopters, boats and trucks of these companies need to be available to carry basic supplies and medicines as quickly as possible before the pandemic spreads in the rivers. The hydrocarbon infrastructure will also be crucial to serve the population in the coming weeks and evacuate the sick. You must act now. Can’t wait any longer.

Covid-19 In the Amazon: Expanding Collaboration With Armed Forces To Serve Indigenous Peoples


Source: Luisa Belaunde